A terrifyingly atmospheric ghost story by the Orange-prize-winning Helen Dunmore.
In the summer of 1954, newlywed Isabel Carey arrives in a Yorkshire town with her husband Philip. As a GP he spends much of his time working, while Isabel tries hard to adjust to the realities of married life. Life is not easy: she feels out-of-place and constantly judged by the people around her, so she spends much of her time alone.
One cold winter night, Isabel finds an old RAF greatcoat in the back of a cupboard that she uses to help keep warm. Once wrapped in the coat she is beset by dreams. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled to hear a knock at her window, and to meet for the first time the intense gaze of a young Air Force pilot, handsome, blond and blue-eyed, staring in at her from outside.
His name is Alec, and his powerfully haunting presence both disturbs and excites Isabel. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin a delicious affair. But nothing could have prepared her for the truth about Alec’s life, nor the impact it will have on her own marriage.
The Greatcoat is more a story of lost love. Yearning for the past than it is a traditional scary ghost story. People from the past coming to the present stuck in a loop that will forever hold them.
The story did not scare me as such but, Isabel’s isolation as the newcomer in town weighed heavily on me. Her husband Philip fell comfortably into his role as the new doctor. However, Isobel found life a lot harder having to endure stares and whispers from nosy women. I also felt the suffocation of realisation when she finally figured out who Alec was and what had brought him to her. Having the world you know fall away from you with no one to turn to or confide in only made her already miserable life worse.
Despite the heaviness, Isobel’s story was a very easy and enjoyable read. The author’s ability to weave a story that draws the reader into the lives of her characters became apparent to me. I was unable to put the book down until I had discovered the fate of Alec and Isabel. A hauntingly beautiful tapestry of the past and the present intermingling.
At the conclusion of the book, there is an Afterword section from the author on how the book came into being. It was very interesting reading and brought more depth to Isabel and Alec’s tale.